Justin Jefferson Knows It’s Coming
In the last four years, the Minnesota Vikings have talked players like Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, and Stefon Diggs into relatively team-friendly deals. But that will not work for wide receiver Justin Jefferson — because he knows a payday is coming.
Jefferson, who set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons in 2020 and 2021, will command an otherworldly contract when his rookie deal expires after the 2024 season. And, per customary practice, those discussions generally heat up following the superstar’s third season.
On a calendar, that is spring of 2023 for Minnesota and Jefferson to explore extensions talks, assuming new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah follows current unspoken protocol.
Chad Graff from The Athletic asked Jefferson on Tuesday if he’d taken notice of other wide receiver contracts lately. Unsurprisingly, Jefferson has done just that, replying to Graff, “I’m excited for them and excited for what I have in store.”
“In-store” for Jefferson is between $30-$35 million per season when the negotiations begin. You know, quarterback money from two years ago. This is the lay of the land as of April 2022 for wide receivers contracts, per average annual salary:
- Tyreek Hill = $30M
- Davante Adams = $28M
- DeAndre Hopkins = $27.25M
- Stefon Diggs = $26M
- D.J. Moore = $20.62M
- Keenan Allen = $20.25M
- Mike Williams = $20M
- Amari Cooper = $20M
- Chris Godwin = $20M
- Brandin Cooks = $19.8M
- Michael Thomas = $19.25M
- Christian Kirk = $18M
- Kenny Golladay = $18M
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Jefferson will shatter these totals with a purple sledgehammer. The salary cap will continue to inflate — and Jefferson is just that damn good, at age 22, to surpass the monetary figures above.
So, his casual comment about the excitement over his next contract is a tapered, diplomatic confirmation that a gargantuan sack of money will hit his bank account in 2024.
The Vikings next task? Ensuring Jefferson wants to stay in Minnesota. Inconveniently, Jefferson arrived at the precise moment when Mike Zimmer’s defense died, disabling the Vikings from reaching the playoffs in Jefferson’s first two seasons — not a good look for a team hoping to retain a productive, hungry playmaker.
As a result, Minnesota canned Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, embarking on an era of offense-first football led by Super Bowl winner Kevin O’Connell. On paper, O’Connell’s brain should pair masterfully with Jefferson’s hands and feet.
But the wins must follow. The NFL doesn’t have a supermax program like the NBA, leaving no incentive for Jefferson to stay with the Vikings if the team fails to reach the postseason in 2022 or 2023. Why on earth would Jefferson want to remain a Viking if the franchise goes 0-for-4 for playoff entry in his first four years? Hint: he wouldn’t.
Losing Jefferson would make the Stefon Diggs exodus feel like small potatoes.
Ergo, the Vikings have a vested interest to make the playoffs now. And that’s probably why the ownership and general manager scoffed at the idea of rebuilding.
Whether it’s the Vikings or another team, Jefferson will break the bank — soon.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).